As the BBC announced on Friday an extension to the length of time viewers can watch programmes on the BBC iPlayer from seven days to 30, reports began circulating that the broadcaster may be gearing up to extend the BBC licence fee too.
The BBC Trust has approved the change for iPlayer, due to begin in the summer, which effectively quadruples the amount of content on offer online. The service recorded a record three billion requests for TV and radio programmes last year.
However, the Daily Telegraph has now reported that the BBC may be preparing to fight for the extension of the BBC licence fee to cover online programming, meaning householders who do not own a TV could become liable to pay the £145.50 licence fee.
The proposals for a “universal charge” are understood to be among reforms being discussed with ministers ahead of the BBC’s Royal Charter review in 2016.
Conservative MP Rob Wilson described the idea as a “poll tax” and said the public would be horrified by a universal requirement to pay the licence fee.
A BBC spokesman told The Telegraph: “Over its history, the licence fee has been modernised a number of times, from a wireless licence to one that now applies to tablets and computers.
“It is for parliament and government to decide the next stages and the BBC looks forward to taking part in that debate.”
Last month, it emerged that a campaign was underway by MPs to make non-payment of the licence fee a civil offence instead of criminal.